March for Science: Tucson & UA community shows their colors on Earth Day
Conservation Scientist Sergio Avila poses with his poster for the March for Science Rally at El Presidio Park on April 22. Avila works with the Arizona-Sonora Desert museum to help restore habitats and other wildlife needs.
Hundreds of people gathered in El Presidio Park on Earth Day April 22nd, with lab coats and homemade signs, to rally in support of the nationwide March for Science.
According to the national March for Science website, thousands of people across six continents and in over 600 cities participated in the event “to defend the vital role science plays in our health, safety, economies, and governments.”
The Tucson branch of the event featured a set of speakers, musicians, and a series of educational booths.
“We have a team of really competent, wonderful, and passionate people who have been plugging away for the last couple of months to put together a great program that was not only inspiration but was also educational and entertaining,” said Linda Bruff, entertainment committee leader for the event.
The rally comes as a reaction to proposed budget cuts to research grants and the rejection of scientific consensus at all levels of politics.
“There has really been a push to silence scientists and start regulating and censoring their research because some feel it is better for the economy,” Bruff said.
According to Bruff, science has never played a large role in politics. But after years of legislation to protect industry over the environment, science must take a more active role, especially considering the actions of the new administration.
Others echoed Bruff’s sentiment. Teal Brechtel, a UA molecular and cellular biology graduate student, said “Our careers depend on science funding from the government.”
The colorful signs peppering the rally reflected Brechtel’s motivation. Signs listed off the diseases science has cured and criticized the new administration for its proposed cuts to the National Institutes of Health and other departments.
For Luke Kosinski, another graduate student in molecular and cellular biology and statistics, the rally was all about raising awareness.
“The more and more people who show up and rally across the country, the more and more attention the cause receives,” Kosinski said. “It then has a greater chance to reach politicians’ ears and convince them to act on the research funding situation and other issues.”
One of these other issues is climate change. Signs dealing with climate change such as those reading “Ice has no agenda, it just melts” and “Water is Life” were a common feature at the event.
The Arizona chapter of the Citizen Climate Lobby spoke at the event and handed out fliers alongside other political campaigns.
The rally also featured a booth selling screen printed lab coats as well as a number of educational booths featuring UA faculty and departments.
The event was not sponsored by the UA.
After the inauguration of President Trump, the United States has seen a series of high-profile, nationwide marches for everything from women rights to a perceived Muslim ban. The March for Science draws on similar themes of distrust in the new administration and politicians.
“Science is being undermined by our current politicians,” said Jennifer Powers, the mother of a UA student.
If the country does not fund and respond to scientific research on our current societal problems, then the nation is further digging itself into a ditch, Powers said.
Her opinion was reflected by Nancy Bennett, who attended the rally wearing a sign.
“The political climate is ignorant of the facts,” Bennett said.
The rally, lasting four hours, was a success in the eyes of Bruff and other attendees.
“I am very happy to see so many smiling faces and so many people dancing, holding up signs, buying the t-shirts, and hearing all the great speakers,” Bruff said.
Bruff hopes the community of Tucson will rally around the cause and start working to organize a rally for next year and continue to spread the message that science matters throughout the year.
For Powers, the diversity of the people at the event stood out most for her.
While UA science, technology, engineering and math majors and scientists came out in force, they were not alone. Community members and families also came out to support the value of science and expert scientists in the face of climate change, disease, and the dissemination of “fake news”.
“People came to the rally with their own perspectives but they all came to contribute their voice and support the concept of science,” Powers said.
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